The phrase “sleep hygiene” does not refer to how frequently you should wash your sheets or change out your pillow, but to the healthy habits and best practices that lead to good quality of sleep. In today’s day and age of electronic notification, bright lights, and 24/7 communication, more people than ever are struggling with sleep. Before you book an appointment with a sleep doctor, go in overnight for a sleep study, try some of these sleep hygiene tips.
These “do’s” and “don’ts” can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep—overnight!
- Get your electronics out of your bedroom. Aka, No TV, no laptop in bed. Reserve the room for sleep and intimacy. You want to associate your bed with sleep, not wakeful activities such as watching TV, reading, or working. Bonus: get a real alarm clock and kick your phone out of your room.
- You bedroom should be quiet, cool, and dark. A fan or a white noise machine can mask noisy neighbors or street sounds.
- Cut off electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime. The bright blue light interferes with your body’s production of Melatonin, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep. If you simply can’t unplug, invest in some neat blue light blocking goggles.
- Treat yourself like a toddler. Have a fairly-set bedtime, and a bedtime routine that you regularly follow.
- Do not nap. It’s worth noting that the toddler idea does not extend to include a regular nap time. When we nap, we decrease the amount of sleep we need at night, which can lead to trouble falling asleep and sleep fragmentation. Seriously, avoid naps!
- Limit Caffeine. Follow the general rule of limiting caffeine, and for sure don’t have any caffeinated beverages after 3:00 pm.
- If you can’t fall asleep after 15-20 minutes, get out of bed. Take the next 15-20 minutes to read (something made of paper, not a screen) then go back to bed and try again. Repeat.
If you implement good sleep hygiene and you still have trouble sleeping, then it’s time to call your primary care doctor, or see a sleep specialist. But give it a few weeks of truly doing all the things on this list before you escalate your level of care.
Brittany Steffen, MS, LMFT
Marriage & Family Therapist at the Pro Club Counseling Center